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The Rich Man and Lazarus
-the intermediate state-


There remains a fifth passage, Luke 16:19-31, commonly called �the Parable of the Rich Man and Lazarus,� or of �Dives and Lazarus.� It is absolutely impossible that the traditional interpretation of this can be correct, because if it were, it would be directly opposed to all other teaching of Scripture. And the Lord's words cannot and must not be so interpreted. If it be Bible truth (as it is) that �the dead know not anything,� how could the Lord have taught, and how can we believe that they do know a very great deal? If it be that fact that when man's �breath goeth forth, in that very day his thoughts perish,� how can we believe that he goes on thinking? and not only thinking without a brain, but putting his �thoughts� into words, and speaking them without a tongue?

When the great subject of resurrection is in question, one of the most solemn arguments employed is that, if there be no such thing as resurrection, then not only all the dead, but �they also which are fallen asleep in Christ are perished� (I Corinthians 15:18). This is also the argument which immediately follows in verse 29 (after the parenthesis in verses 20-28), and is based upon verse 18.

   �Else, what are they doing who are being baptized? It is for dead (corpses)    if the dead rise not at all. Why are they then being baptized for corpses?�

Which is, of course, the case, if they are not going to rise again.

We are expressly enjoined by the Lord Himself: �Marvel not at this: for the hour is coming in the which all that are in the graves shall hear His voice� (John 5:28). These are the Lord's own words, and they tell us where His Voice will be heard; and, that is not in heaven, not in Paradise, or in any so-called �intermediate state,� but �in the graves.

With this agrees Dan. 12:2, which tells us that those who �awake� in resurrection will be those �that sleep in the dust of the earth.� It does not say, in �Abraham's bosom,� or any other place, state, or condition, but �in the dust of the earth�; from which man was �taken� (Gen. 2:7; 3:23), and to which he must �return� (Gen. 3:19. Ecclesiastes 12:7).

It is, of course, most blessedly true that there is a vast difference between the saved and the unsaved in this �falling asleep.� The former have received the gift of �eternal life� (Romans 6:23): not yet in actual fruition; but �in Christ,� who is responsible to raise them from the dead (John 6:39), that they may enter upon the enjoyment of it. The unsaved do not possess �eternal life,� for it is declared to be �the gift of God� (Romans 6:23). No one is responsible for them, to raise them up. True, they will be raised (Revelation 20:12,13), but it will be only "the resurrection of damnation" (John 5:29); for judgment, and to be cast into the lake of fire. Very different, therefore, are these two cases. The atonement and resurrection, and ascension of Christ has made all the difference for His people.

They die like others; but for them it is only falling asleep. Why? Because they are to wake again. Though dead, they are now called �the dead in Christ,� but it remains perfectly true that �we who are alive and remain to the coming of the Lord shall not precede (R.V.) them.� And, therefore, it follows, of necessity, that they cannot precede us.

But it is sometimes urged that �the Lord led forth a multitude of captives from Hades to Paradise when He wrested from Satan his power over death and Hades� (Eph. 4:8). But the fact is that Eph. 4:8 says nothing about Hades or Paradise! Nothing about �multitudes of captives,� and nothing about the state between the moment of His dying and rising. It was �when He ascended up on high� that there was this great triumph for the Lord Jesus Christ. We are not told what were all the immediate effects of Christ's death, resurrection and ascension, in Satan's realm of evil angels. Col. 2:15 tells us the great fact that He �spoiled principalities and powers.� Henceforth He held the keys of death and the grave (hades) (Revelation 1:18).
There was a mighty conflict and a glorious victory when Christ rose from the dead and conquered him that had the power of death. In proof and token of His triumph �many� (not a few) rose from the dead (Matthew. 27:52, 53); but these again sleep in Christ awaiting the return and the final resurrection from the dead.

We now come to the so-called parable itself. It is evident that this Scripture (Luke 16:19-31) must be interpreted and understood in a manner that shall not only not contradict that plain and direct teaching of all these passages; but on the contrary, in a manner which must be in perfect and complete harmony with them: and in such a way that it shall be necessary for the better understanding of the whole context in which it stands. That is to say, we must not explain the Parable apologetically, as though we wished it were not there; but as though we could not do without it. We must treat it as being indispensable, when taken with the context. Let us look first at some of the inconsistencies of the Traditional Interpreters.

Some of them call it a �parable�; but the Lord does not so designate it. It does not even begin by saying �He said.� It commences abruptly - �There was�; without any further guide as to the reason or meaning of what is said.

Then they follow their own arbitrary will, picking out one word or expression, which they say is literal; and another, which they say is parabolic. For example, �Abraham's bosom� is, according to them, parabolic; and denotes Paradise. They are bound so to take it, because if literal, �Abraham's bosom� would hold only one person! It refers to the act of reclining at meals, where any one person, if he leaned back, would be �in the bosom� of the other. John was so placed with regard to the Lord Jesus (John 13:23; 21:20), and it was a token of favor and love (John 19:26; 20:2; 21:7).

Then they take the �fire� and the �water,� the �tongue� and the �flame,� etc., as being literal; but when the Lord elsewhere speaks of �the worm that dieth not,� they take that as parabolic, and say it does not mean �a worm� but conscience. In all this they draw only on their imagination, and interpret according to their own arbitrary will. 

If we follow out this illogical principle, then according to them Lazarus was never buried at all; while the rich man was. For �the rich man also died and was buried� (v. 22); while Lazarus, instead of being buried, was �carried by the angels into Abraham's bosom.�

There is the further difficulty as to how a man who has been actually buried, could think without a brain, or speak without a tongue. How can the spirit speak, or act apart from the physical organs of the body? This is a difficulty our friends cannot get over: and so they have to invent some theory (which outdoes the Spiritists' invention of an �Astral body�) which has no foundation whatever in fact: and is absolutely destitute of anything worthy of the name �evidence� of any kind whatsoever.

Then again, Hades is never elsewhere mentioned as a place of fire. On the contrary, it is itself to be �cast into the lake of fire� (Rev. 20:14).

The Rich Man and Lazarus cont>       <Paul's Desire in Philippians 1:23